Ahhhh, fiber. It’s one of those things we’ve all heard is good for us, and yet it’s hard to hear the words “make sure you’re getting enough fiber” without hearing them in your grandmother’s voice. Here are two facts that may help you shift your perspective just a bit: getting your fiber can be unexpectedly delicious—and it can also be a key player in your weight loss success. In fact, in a recent study1, researchers found that consuming a high-fiber diet helped participants lose weight AND keep it off.
What Is Dietary Fiber?
Okay, bear with us here because this part may sound a little less than appetizing. The definition of fiber is the indigestible part of plant food that travels through our digestive system. This basically means that fiber is the part of the food that never gets digested. Instead, the purpose of fiber is to help the other parts of the food get through the digestive system correctly. They fulfill an important role by assisting with your digestive processes, even though dietary fibers are not digested themselves.
Fiber is divided into two different types —soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and then forms a gelatinous substance as it goes through the digestive system. Insoluble fiber remains solid the entire time.
Soluble fiber, as we mentioned, forms a gelatinous substance in your body. It slows down digestion, which can regulate blood sugar levels, and attaches to cholesterol on the way out to help lower your risk of heart disease. Since soluble fiber is not digested you will find that foods with soluble fiber will contribute less calories and a lower blood sugar level than other foods. Foods high in soluble fiber include oats, nuts, peas, beans, apples and blueberries.
Insoluble fiber is found in wheat bread, carrots, green beans, and cauliflower to name a few. It is the type of fiber that helps keep you feeling full so you will not grow hungry as quickly. Insoluble fiber, however, is really known for keeping your digestive system working at a regular pace, and we will cover the health benefits of this in a minute!
Daily Fiber Intake
The daily nutritional goal for fiber is about 25 grams for women and about 35 grams for men, which actually isn’t too difficult to attain. You can get this amount of fiber by consuming about 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables a day. Veggies and fruits with the skin on them will contain more fiber2—so try to eat more foods in whole rather than peeling or juicing them, to get the full fiber and other nutritional benefits available. If you make smart switches and additions like snacking on fruits and veggies instead of chips or sweets, then you will be at your recommended amount of fiber in no time!
How Fiber Helps Weight Loss
Due to the unique properties of soluble and insoluble fiber, your weight loss journey would be incomplete without an addition of more fiber into your diet. Here are just a few reasons why.
#1. Healthy Digestion
It can be difficult to lose weight if you’re struggling with irregularity. Consuming a high-fiber diet helps support healthy digestion by “bulking up” your stool, ensuring that waste moves through your colon at a healthy pace. Just remember that for fiber to do its waste removal duties, it needs plenty of hydration! Make sure you’re drinking an adequate amount of water and other non-caloric beverages throughout the day.
Fiber also promotes the healthy bacteria in your system which, are anti-inflammatory and can contribute to IBS if their levels are low. So a high-fiber diet will leave your system moving smoothly and happily.3
#2. Skin Health
Fiber aids in the digestion process in addition to many other benefits. Improving your digestive health can allow yeasts and bacteria that can cause rashes or bumps on your body to be flushed out before they have a chance to act. High-fiber diets can also help you absorb all the nutrients you need more sufficiently. For your skin, this means making you feel and look healthier. One of the primary reasons for breakouts is an unhappy digestive system, so if you use fiber to get that in check, then your skin (not only your stomach) may thank you for it!
#3. Preventing Calorie Absorption
When fiber passes through your body, it increases the speed of digestion. This means that the calories you consume do not have quite as much time to be absorbed so your body gets rid of the calories a little faster than it would without fiber.
#4. Get Full & Stay Full
High-fiber foods are, by nature, just plain satisfying. They’re hearty and filling, and since they metabolize more slowly than low-fiber foods, they tend to help us feel full longer. Oatmeal, apples, carrots, and legumes like garbanzo beans and lentils are some examples of high-fiber foods. Although these foods do not have magical fat-burning properties, they do have a pleasing, weighty presence IN the belly, without contributing to long-term weight ON the belly.
#5. Stronger Bones
Some types of soluble fiber, such as asparagus, leeks, and oats, have been shown to increase the bioavailability of minerals like calcium in foods4, which may help maintain bone density. Having high bone density can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and lead to overall better strength and a healthier self. Though studies are not prolific, there have been a few that suggest a high fiber diet leads to higher bone density and lower risk for osteoporosis.
#6. Stay Healthier In General
According to health experts5, making fiber an important part of your diet will not only help you control your weight—it can also help prevent type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, contributing to better health in the long run. Fiber helps prevent Type 2 diabetes by keeping blood sugar levels steady and helping you maintain a healthier weight.6 It can also lower your risk of heart disease by picking up extra cholesterol in your system7 and pushing it out before it can be at risk for clogging your arteries. (However, be careful of too much fiber...)
Those with high-fiber diets have been linked to having a lower risk of colorectal and breast cancers8, due to the lack of inflammation in your system. In addition, a high fiber diet has been linked to decreasing stroke risk.9 Overall, fiber has some amazing benefits that may help your general health.
Fiber Supplements - Good or Bad?
One shortcut that you may be tempted to try is to take fiber supplements. These fibers are typically extracted from healthy sources, but most studies have shown that they do not produce the same benefits as just eating fibrous foods in their natural form.10 Our nutritionists recommend adding fruits, oats, and of course more veggies to your diet instead of taking fiber pills or supplements.
Fiber & Jenny Craig
Our menus are designed to meet expert recommendations for fiber. Jenny Craig entrees that have 5+ grams of fiber include Roasted Turkey Medallions, Broccoli & Cheese Stuffed Potato, Chicken Wrap with BBQ Sauce, and the Classic Cheeseburger.
If you’re using our Fresh & Free Additions or cooking on your own, here are some other high-fiber, low-calorie foods you might add: raspberries (4 grams of fiber @ 32 calories per ½ cup serving), broccoli (5 grams of fiber @ 55 calories per 1 cup serving) and cooked peas (4 grams of fiber @66 calories per ½ cup serving).
There is no doubt that fiber is healthy for you—mostly because it resides in plant-based foods that are always good for you to add to your diet. One of our favorite things about fiber is that it is easy to add to your diet. If you do not have time for complicated diet switches then incorporating more fiber is a really simple, effective way to increase weight loss as well as many other health benefits. We would love to hear more about your experiences with increasing your fiber intake—what are your favorite fibrous foods, and best dishes to make with them?
Edited by Sarah S – Jenny Craig